When the first lockdown kicked in people that I spoke to within the trade told me it was a rare opportunity to grab a breather and a bit of space. Peter Fury was no different. Indeed, the hardest part for Fury was probably the fact that for as long as I’ve known him, he is constantly on the move so our conversations start with: “Hello, Peter, what part of the world are you in today?”
Fury entered lockdown with his wife, Maureen, and he also takes care of his mother, Sissy Patience Fury. Sadly, Sissy suffered a stroke recently so her son is balancing his training duties with caring for the woman who means the whole world to him.
“Everyone had their separate things, really, as I was in the south of England and they were up in the north,” he said when recalling those early days of the first lockdown with Boxing Social. “We all had our own lockdowns. We could speak on the phone, FaceTime and all that so it wasn’t too bad.
“I didn’t mind it. I got a chance to relax and think. Plenty of walking, walking the dog and cooking food at home. I spent a lot quality time with my mother. It was nice. My mother has recently had a stroke, so she isn’t at her best, as you’d expect after something like that, but she turned 85 this week and we all had a nice day for her.”
When I first got to know Peter, I had read about his time inside for possession and conspiracy to supply amphetamine following an arrest in 1994, and then a later charge and conviction of drug-related money laundering in 2008. In December 2011, a judge handed down a Confiscation Order for £704,394 after an investigation into Fury’s finances by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Fury was given a year to pay up or face four more years in prison.
Not too long after Peter and I first hooked up his nephew, Tyson, signed on to fight David Haye in a pair of fights that were nixed due to injuries suffered by Haye. I assumed that the tabloids would mention Peter Fury’s past so asked if he wanted to discuss it. To my surprise he said “Yes”, and he was open and candid about everything. In the end, the tabloids didn’t run with it until a few years later when they took entire quotes from our interviews without attributing them. There is a reason they are in a steep decline.
The initial article was published in Boxing Monthly. When asked about his experiences in prison, Peter had told me: “What is prison like — well, when you go to the toilet, you just see the toilet and you don’t see the vermin down below it. There’s a life down there that you don’t want to see — that’s where you are in prison. You’re in hell on earth. That man sat next to you can easily put a knife through your neck because they’re in for life and are in despair with nothing to lose.”
He also openly admitted that as a young man he would take what he wanted. “I was wild when I was younger,” he admitted back then during that candid in-depth conversation about the life he had left behind. “I’d see someone walking down the street with a nice pair of trainers on and want to have a fight with them.
“Then anyone who wanted protection would come to me because I was seen as a tough young fella. They’d say, ‘This one or that one’s picking at me’, so you get dragged into a world where you don’t belong. One thing led to another. I went from looking after people, to looking after areas to looking after cities. Then bang!—you’re involved with something without even having the realisation of what you’re getting into.
“I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I lost my way. It is like riding on a wave. Then you realise that that was a load of shit. You have more wisdom in your middle-age than you do as a young man, unfortunately. I wish I’d listened to my old man. He said to me: ‘You know you, son, you’re either going to get murdered or do a life sentence’. Luckily, I got my time, did it and was given the chance at another life.”
Years on, and with even more time to reflect, Fury opened up about the role his parents and family played in helping him embark on the path of rehabilitation that led him to where he is today. “Look”, he said, “everything in life is a bonus. My mother is with us at home. She is not in a care home; she is here with her family. She has got all the love and attention in the world, and that is what matters.
“My mother has got us all around her so we are just all doing what we can do. We’ve only got one mother and father, and I’ve always been very close to my parents. I’ve done my best for them and will continue to do so. People say it is a job or a duty, but I don’t see it that way because I love my mother and it is up to me to do what I can.
“My mother is a huge part of my life. My mother and father were always there for me. They got me back on my feet after some troubled times. No matter what I did, they were always there for me. I couldn’t do any wrong in their eyes, just as they couldn’t do any wrong in my eyes. They were better people than I was as a young man growing up. My mother and father were the best parents any family could have had. I can’t speak highly enough about my parents.”
Fury paused for a second, so I used the break to ask him what he would say to himself if he could travel back in time and advise his younger self. “I would tell myself about the stress I was going to put my mother and father through for having a son in prison for years,” he said after a moment of reflection.
“What I did was inconsiderate of other people. I am considerate of them now, but I wasn’t as a young man. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a nasty person or anything like that. It is just that young people don’t consider the feelings of others as much as they should do. They say they do, but often they don’t because they’ve got their own lives to lead, too, and get absorbed into that.
“If I could turn the clock back, I’d be more considerate to the people around me. I’ve reached a point in life now where I have experience. I’ve realised it is not just about taking, it is about giving. It is about helping people. It doesn’t matter what you get, you can have all the riches in the world but if you are not good to people or hurt or offend them then you will never get true happiness. It is not all about money, happiness is about finding peace. You can’t buy that. It comes from inside and how you deal with people.
“It isn’t just about going to prison. I could have been shot dead or ended up getting hurt. I look back now and think: ‘How can you put your family through that?’ I’ve got the best wife in the world. She loves me, she is a great mother and went through hell and back with me. We’ve been together since we was 14. You asked me about regrets? Those are the ones I have, the things I put them through, and I just thank god that I got a chance to pay them back.
“I also apply this thinking to other people that come across my path. Boxing can do so much good. Look at Savannah [Marshall], she is now fighting for a world title [Writer’s note: Her fight against Hannah Rankin has just been cancelled as Peter has tested positive for Covid-19]. I believe she can do it. It is nice to be able to help get her there. It means you are giving something back. Those types of things are what people remember. It is those types of things that they will talk about. You can drive a Ferrari or own a Rolls Royce, but who is really interested in all that these days? It is all bollocks.”
Fury did hard, proper time in a variety of prisons. He was a Category A prisoner so he was moved around a lot. He also had a name and a reputation, he once told me that: “I did have a few fights because you’re locked up with 1,800 to 2,000 inmates who are all doing weights and think they’re it. But I found fighting a way of release. I remember one visit with the wife where my hands were smashed to pieces.
“You can get beaten up in prison, you can get stabbed, but you can get all that on the streets as well — I’d dealt with that growing up. You sweat blood and tears in those cells, and all these people who stick their chests out and say jail is easy are lying because there is nothing worse than being away from your family.”
“You’re on a knife-edge,” he had recalled. “They soon get to know if you can fight and stand up for yourself. If you are weak in prison then you get quickly found out. I was regarded as dangerous, so I was locked up with IRA members and lifers. It was like being in the dark for 24 hours a day.”
Fury would look down at his bruised and battered knuckles while waiting for his family to visit him knowing that he was putting them all through the mill. Throughout all of the time I have known him, he has never blamed anyone but himself, and has been constantly having to square the circle between the young man who went into prison and the man he later became.
His wife played a crucial role throughout and went through things that would cause most people to walk away. She never did, and Fury is eternally grateful for the support he received from a woman who had five children to support and consider.
“Hughie was days old when I went away for all that time,” he said. “It was hard for her. My wife travelled all over the country. Because I was a high-risk category prisoner, I had to be moved every 28 days. I was up and down the country. She was there every single week, sometimes more than once a week, and she did every day of that sentence with me. I wasn’t thinking whether she was happy back home because I heard the tears over the phone, our lives were in turmoil. Then it all turned around when I got home. That is the bond we have within our family.
“Listen, I’m a man. I can do jail time. I’ve met people on the outside that were in with me. They remember that I just kept to myself and did my time. The time isn’t the problem, it is the people you are taking down there with you who also have to do it. That’s the issue. My missus and kids were innocents, but they all suffered. There was action and consequence. One consequence created a ripple effect that hurt a lot of people. It makes you think about decisions. The things you do. You might think, ‘I’m only one man and I don’t have a voice’, when the reality is that your decisions can affect so many other people, not just yourself.”
Boxers and family members who have been in prison have told me that the hardest thing is that time is passing you by and passing by as normal for the people outside. One ex-boxer told me that he ended up refusing visitors as it was too painful to see them moving on with life while his existence remained in stasis. None of them have ever made excuses, you often find that people who do real time own up to what they did and reflect on the impact it had.
“Someone once asked me to describe it,” revealed Fury. “I told them that you have died, but you can still see things and you have been put in a glass coffin where you can see other people passing you by. No one is interested in the man in the coffin. You’re just irrelevant to anyone apart from your family and friends. Plus, you are a number in there, you no longer have a name and are reduced to being a barcode.”
Maybe this is why Fury likes to travel around a lot. That and the fact that he has travelling in his blood. Life has been good since he left prison behind him. He took Tyson all the way to the world heavyweight title. Hughie has won the British heavyweight crown and despite of (in their eyes because of) a hard apprenticeship they believe he will still go all the way to the top in time.
“I’ve been a lot of places on business and in boxing,” Fury reflected as our conversation wound down. “There has been ups and downs. I’m not saying that the main thing is to travel, the main things is to enjoy the one life that is given to you. For me, it is nice to get all around and see things so I like to do that. Life is a struggle no matter who you are or what you do. There is no such thing as a perfect life as everyone has got struggles and issues.
“The thing is that setbacks shape your character. You move on, dust yourself off and carry on. Life isn’t given. There are many reasons why fighters lose. You need to take the benefits from the negatives. If life was all about just looking at the negatives you won’t get anywhere.
“I spent years in prison and people said: ‘He’s going to be a career criminal. He’s not going to change. He’s not going to keep his wife and kids.’ I even had probation saying that to me. They thought I’d been away for too long. But I knew my own mind. My wife, family and me are stronger than ever before. You have to know your own heart and mind, once you do it doesn’t matter what people have to say. It all comes through you. People are too quick to listen to others and their negative thoughts. Negativity breeds negativity, you need to be positive.
“I thank the blessed Lord Jesus Christ for my life,” he added. “I thank him for my mum, my wife and family. The truth only leads to one place, and that is the blessed Lord. People say, ‘I’m not sure’, or, ‘I don’t believe’, but then something happens that makes things go really drastically wrong and they reach out to one thing and they say: ‘Please God help me’. I’ve got so much to be thankful for and I value everything I have.
“I want the best for my son. I want the best for Savannah. I’m not a sly person. It isn’t about money. I want them to do well. If they give appreciation back then that is all that matters, especially someone of my age when that type of thing starts to matter a bit more.”
Although has Fury has said before that “Age is just a number” and despite those lost years, he is maximising his life through his passions, and has done very well for someone who spent so much of their life on hold. In fact, back in 2013, a call between Fury and I ended and he took a deep breath. It had almost been a confessional, so I asked him how it felt to be a free man with a bright future ahead of him.
“I love being able to breathe fresh air every day,” he told me back then. “That means more to me than pound notes.”
That still applies to this day.
The Boxing Social team would like to send out their best wishes to Sissy and Peter Fury at this time.
Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.